An unusual but necessary and apt (given the times) activity has emerged the source of the most work in the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Yojna, the ambitious jobs-for-migrants scheme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 20 — the laying of optic fibre cables.
In the three weeks since its launch, the government has spent Rs 6,000 crore on the scheme on which it plans to spend a total of Rs 50,000 crore in 125 days, providing jobs to millions of daily wage workers who returned to homes in the Indian hinterland from cities in the wake of the coronavirus disease and the lockdown imposed to slow its spread.
A total of 59.8 million days of work has been created across a bouquet of 25 schemes—clubbed to create the programme—in the three weeks, indicating, according to government officials who asked not to be named, the demand for work in rural areas.
Of this, laying optic fibre cables generated the most work, and accounted for 93,390 activities (or work lots) according to government data. Details of how many man days this translated into were not immediately available. construction of houses for rural poor, which got off to a slow start, accounted for 64,756 activities. This comes at a time when a lot of daily activities have moved online, even in rural India, in the wake the coronavirus disease.
The government estimates that at least 7.5 million migrant workers returned home due to the pandemic and the national lockdown. Policymakers scrambled to tweak plans and resources as rural India saw heavy demand for work while construction in some urban centres faced paucity of labourers.
Demand for work under the goverment’s flagship rural guarantee scheme has soared. According to government data, 67.2 million individuals have already worked and 227,000 households have completed their entire quota of 100 days of work.
The Garib Kalyan Rojgar Yojna was crafted last month to offer work to migrant labourers and, at the same time, focusing on key priorities. With around 60% of the workers having worked in the construction sector — the government conducted a large survey to assess this — the scheme was heavily loaded with similar opportunities.
Interestingly, the data shows that two flagship schemes— the Jal Jeevan mission and Urja Ganga, —are yet to generate any work. While the Jal Jeevan mission aims to supply water to all houses, Urja Ganga aims to buid a piped network of cooking gas.
The Garib Kalyan Rojgar Yojna and MGNREGA are the two major sources of jobs in rural India at this point in time. Together, they have a budget of Rs 2 lakh crore .
Former rural development secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra said, “The rozgar scheme was envisaged to help migrant workers get livelihood in this crisis period. It is helpful but the ground reports suggest that many migrant workers are going back to their old workstations in cities and many of them are unwilling to take up hard manual work in rural areas. So, we may see a lot of existing workforce in villages taking up some of these works.”